Amex GBT, BCD And CWT Start With Data Capture In Airbnb Partnerships

After dabbling in the managed travel space for some time now, Airbnb took a step toward legitimacy by inking agreements with American Express Global Business Travel, BCD Travel and Carlson Wagonlit Travel.

Each of the mega travel management companies confirmed plans this week to enable the capture of Airbnb booking data for traveler tracking and reporting purposes, but they are in different phases of readiness to facilitate Airbnb bookings on behalf of clients. Though all three partnerships were announced on the same day, there's no cookie-cutter approach, said Airbnb head of global payments and business travel Lex Bayer.

CWT plans to integrate Airbnb listings into its booking portal so corporate travelers will be able to see Airbnb options by Oct. 1. Instead of a one-click process, though, CWT still will kick travelers over to the Airbnb for Business platform to complete transactions.

CWT agents also will be able to book stays on behalf of travelers. "We think it's going to be really valuable for group travel," Bayer said. "Having a TMC agent booking on behalf of a group of employees will really make that experience more seamless."

In order to make a booking, CWT agents would need to have their own Airbnb for Business profile. It's similar to the process Airbnb launched last month that allows users of its Airbnb Business Travel platform to book stays on behalf of others within their company.

At first, BCD will integrate Airbnb data into its Decision Source reporting and analytics platform, allowing travel managers and security managers to see where travelers are staying.

BCD vice president of product strategy and innovation Torsten Kriedt said safety and security is the biggest issue for mature programs when it comes to alternative lodging providers.

"With this feed, we now can track direct bookings as if they booked through us," he said. "We can now say, 'Yes, we can keep our travelers safe because we can track them, we can alert them when something is happening in their neighborhood and we can actually communicate with them because we know where they are.'"

Airbnb is a TMC client of BCD, so the partnership is a natural fit. BCD is conducting quality tests on the back-end data integration. Airbnb, as a BCD client, will be part of that process. BCD is testing and will begin full integration in the next few months.

Kriedt said BCD may integrate Airbnb into its TripSource booking portal. "Given that we are really close partners with Airbnb, there is more to come," Kriedt said.

Vice president of global supplier relations Wes Bergstrom also hinted that Amex GBT could take its partnership further, possibly making it so that agents could book on behalf of travelers. "Obviously, we're going to continue to develop additional phases of the program which will enable greater integration throughout the booking process as we move forward," Bergstrom said.

For now, Amex GBT would refer clients to Airbnb for Business. After a client has signed a contract, Airbnb will provide information back to Amex GBT. Reservation details for each business trip will be shared automatically and can be included in a traveler's itinerary alongside flight or rental car information. Travel managers can then access the data through corporate reporting and duty-of-care platforms.

"There has been interest around home-sharing accommodations and Airbnb for quite some time," said Bergstrom. "It was the right time to have this partnership with Airbnb, just based on all the different feedback that we've been getting from our travelers and our clients."

Amex GBT expects to initiate the referral phase of its Airbnb partnership in the next few weeks and will proceed to the next phases shortly after.

Airbnb previously partnered with Concur to make itinerary information available through TripLink. That enabled Concur's integrated TMC partners access to data for traveler tracking and reporting.

Bayer did not comment on whether Airbnb bookings would be commissionable.